Inbound vs. Outbound: What Today’s Leaders Need to Know to Drive Both

When you go fishing, do you paddle out to the middle of the lake with all your bait and tackle and wait for the fish to jump in the boat? Now, if the goal is to actually bring home fish, this is likely not the best strategy.

What you’ll do instead is paddle out to the middle of the lake and make smart use of your bait and tackle to attract and reel in those monster bass. And if you’re really interested in harvesting fish, like the ocean fishing professionals, you’ll have rigs with massive nets designed to scoop up entire schools of fish in one hoist.

Now, let’s pivot to look at your business model. Is your company fishing the right way? Are you waiting for new clients and leads to “jump in your boat” on their own accord? Are you dangling the shiny lure or lively worm from a pole to catch the big bass? Or are you harvesting en masse, like the ocean fisherman do, with pulley systems and acres-wide nets?

If you’re not sure which strategy your business is actually leveraging right now for growth and new leads, then you can benefit from this complete review of inbound and outbound strategies.

Definitions and Basics of Inbound and Outbound Marketing

Let’s start with the basics. Inbound marketing strategies involve methods for attracting customers with the use of engaging content through unobtrusive techniques. Inbound is passive, whereby you try to attract new customers without directly soliciting them for their business. These are the strategies you’ll use to generate and build brand awareness and loyalty. It’s designed to help people find their own way to your business through distinct message channels that help them along their buying process.

Alternatively, outbound marketing refers to the strategies and methods for attracting customers with a more direct approach. These efforts involve “out” reach with active sales initiatives. These strategies also involve content, but the channels are more assertive, like sales calls, email marketing, paid ads, and targeted landing pages intended to grab a customer’s attention and inspire them to take immediate action.

Key Differences and Expectations for Results

So, the marketing gurus have varied opinions on what percentage of inbound versus outbound is considered to be the best at producing results. Your business model, core offering, and buyer’s cycle will help you determine which makes the most sense to lean into further. But it can be helpful to first understand the key differences to manage your results expectations. For example, writing and posting a few social media posts isn’t going to open the floodgates of leads. And sending sales emails only works when you have a targeted audience list of recipients, not helping to do much for general brand awareness to new customers.

Engagement Differences:

Inbound marketing is passive, meaning you seek to engage only those leads you want. Outbound marketing is active, meaning you’re going after the leads you want right now.

Communication Differences:

Inbound marketing messages are customized, usually to segmented audiences, based on buyer personas you’ve created that represent a target market. Outbound marketing messages are individually personalized, intended to further the one-on-one conversation leading to a conversion.

Timeline for Success Differences:

Inbound marketing, because of its passive nature, can take several months or years to generate the momentum needed for sustained results. Outbound marketing has more of an acute timeline, whereby your direct sales efforts can take effect within a few moments of the conversation’s inception up to a few weeks to achieve sustained results.

ROI Differences:

Inbound marketing is practically impossible to measure with analytics. Because you’re casting a net of awareness and unable to individually track engagement prior to a customer reaching out, it’s hard to quantify ROI. Outbound marketing, however, is analytics-driven, with measurable data you can collect and review in real-time.

In the end, both strategies are effective. And both can be developed and executed for the best results. Just know what goals to assign to each campaign, and be prepared to manage your expectations accordingly.

Start with Your Primary Goals

Don’t be rigid with either inbound or outbound marketing strategies. Position your marketing and sales effort in a way that allows for dynamic shifting between one or the other, or both. Maybe there are busy or peak seasons in your industry that dictate when you engage heavier in outbound versus inbound. Or it could be you’re growing into a new market segment altogether and need a robust inbound strategy to build a lead generation funnel and brand awareness to a new audience. The key to knowing what you should be doing now lies in addressing your “now” goals and then your “later” goals.

  • If you need sales now, go outbound.
  • If you’re launching a new product, heavy inbound.
  • If your competitors just maneuvered ahead of you, bolster both inbound and outbound.

Outbound Will Always Be Effective If…

What you don’t want to do is subscribe to the line of thinking that only one of these marketing strategies is effective. A business without an outbound strategy will soon fall behind. Here’s an example.

ABC Carpet Cleaning relies heavily on inbound marketing strategies, and whatever leads come in from Angi’s List, the website contact us forms, or from past cleaning customers. But their competitor, XYZ Cleaning Company, is actively surging outbound marketing and sales campaigns with paid ads, email blasts featuring cleaning specials, and EDDM coupons. Soon, everyone in town is trying out the other guys, leaving ABC Carpet Cleaning wondering why their phones stopped ringing.

The moral of this carpet cleaning story is to never become complacent with one or just a few select strategies. You’ll want to always have your foot on the gas, with direct engagement and outbound efforts, to continuously generate buzz and immediate leads for your business.

Inbound Will Always Be Effective If…

There’s another scenario whereby putting all your eggs into the outbound marketing strategy basket isn’t always the best way forward either. Here’s the scenario.

ABC Construction has a robust sales team in-house, with rigorous cold call benchmarks and monthly quotas. But their competitor, XYZ Contractors, has been diligently building an inbound strategy of blogs, newsletters, and passive campaigns that are starting to position them as the leader in the industry. Soon, ABC Construction’s sales reps are running dry on conversions, and the brand is earning the reputation of “high-pressure sales tactics.”

The moral of this construction company story is that direct sales won’t generate the brand awareness, strategic brand positioning, and loyalty that inbound marketing will. And it’s a reminder that the best marketing and sales efforts require a healthy combination of both to remain competitive and successful.

Know Your Tools and Choose Wisely

Here’s a short list of inbound and outbound marketing channels you can explore. Remember to keep your audiences in mind and use your buyer personas to guide your messaging. Keep your content consistent regardless of the strategy you use, and any new campaign should support your company mission and brand voice.

Inbound Channels

  • Website
  • Landing Pages
  • SEO
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Press Releases
  • Blogging & Guest Blogging

Outbound Channels

  • Email Campaigns
  • Sales Calls & Cold Calls
  • Direct Messaging Campaigns on Social Media
  • Landing Pages
  • Advertising (TV, Digital, Print, EDDM, Billboards, etc.)

Don’t Cut Either Out Altogether

For many businesses, when budgets get tight, it’s the marketing spending that often takes the hit. But even in your most financially dire moments, it’s marketing and sales that will keep you afloat. If anything, it’s the most important investment you should be making. Just know that when the concerns are immediate, it’s the outbound strategy, with measurable and precision-driven results, that will produce revenue today. And it’s the inbound strategies that often cost less to establish and keep up that will ensure you have prospects to close tomorrow. But cutting out both will be like closing your doors altogether and will result in total stagnation.

Don’t Try to Cheat the System

Here’s the other caveat. There are plenty of influential marketers out there touting what you should be doing to rank for SEO, beat the algorithms, and drive more leads. But if you focus on beating the system, you’ll lose sight of what really attracts your customers – your ability to solve their problems.

Stay focused on being that problem solver, whatever your niche or offering. As your customers’ problems change, you can change your solutions with them. And messaging across both inbound and outbound strategies will ensure you continue to be in a prime position as the leader in your space.

Don’t write blogs, for example, with keywords and awkward phrases that you think Google will pick up on and favor. You’re not trying to sell to Google. You’re trying to engage a client.

Here, you’ll notice that we write like we talk. We’re having a conversation right now, and I’m legitimately trying to offer solutions to your problems. If you’re reading this, then we hopefully brought something to you of value. And that’s the approach you should take with any inbound or outbound strategy. Be authentic to your brand voice with every statement, sales call, online ad, blog, or newsletter that bears your logo.

The HubSpot Model for Inbound Marketing

Most business owners have a strong grasp of the ideal sales pitch for their products or services. So, crafting an outbound strategy with calls to action, strategic buy-in points, and persuasive language can be easier to develop. But it’s the inbound strategy that continues to be the stumper, with its impossibility to guess or measure. And that makes it even harder to invest in, considering you can’t always track the ROI or measure A/B testing. But HubSpot offers a pretty sound theory about developing inbound that makes sense for any business model.

To really get your audiences to find you online naturally, with social media, blogging, and search engine prompts, consider the “attract, engage, delight” wheel.

Attract new and future customers first, with smart use of:

  • Ads
  • Video
  • Blogs
  • Social
  • Content

Engage those you attract second, with smart use of:

  • Lead generation tools
  • Email marketing
  • Marketing automations
  • Chatbots and customer service
  • Lead management and opt-in funnels

Delight them finally, with smart use of:

  • Thought-leadership content
  • Email marketing
  • Conversations
  • Attribution reporting
  • Marketing automations

Outbound Solves Immediate Needs

If your business has immediate needs for sales, lead generation, and conversions, developing your outbound strategy and leading with it will be your best bet.

Same-Day Conversions

The beauty of outbound, especially if it’s well-developed and in the hands of effective salespeople, is that it has the ability to generate leads and convert new customers immediately.

Incredible Audience Targeting

Outbound marketing and sales tactics will position you directly in front of potential customers and prospects, even if they don’t know they need you yet. It’s like cherry-picking your best prospects and then going after them with your offer, where you maintain control over the entire engagement process.

See Quick Results

Inbound marketing is your long-game strategy, meaning outbound marketing is your “right now” strategy. If you need results and more sales right now, outbound sales efforts will boost those transactions.

So, let’s go back to the fishing boat.

If you’re in that boat, starving because you haven’t eaten in three days, you’ll probably need to dress the lure, get the line in the water, and grab the net. You’ll use whatever resources you have on board to land a fish or two right now.

But you can also be setting fish traps underwater. These methods will allow you to attract fish to the boat, making them easier to catch. And you might even catch enough in your traps to eat for the next few days.

Marketing works much the same way. Yes, you’ll need strategies for attracting customers, and closing leads now. But you’ll also need to be laying the groundwork for future customers, new to you customers who don’t know they need you yet and funneling them right to your call to action.

With a healthy mix of both inbound and outbound messaging across all your relevant channels, you’ll continue to grow your business and scale successfully. Consider these differences between the two methods, and hopefully, you found inspiration into developing the right strategy your business needs right now. And if you need more help with developing your inbound efforts with messaging, newsletters, or blog strategies, let Ghost Blog Writers be your guide!

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